| 2008-10-03 19:12, by Julie Solheim-Roe
The views expressed in the WMC commentaries are those of the author alone and do not represent The WMC. The WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.
October 1, 2008
Morgan—whose controversial essay for the Women’s Media Center on sexism in the primary race, “Goodbye To All That #2,” was reprinted on 3,000 sites around the world—expounds here on women’s stake in the general election and the vote that will “make history.”
I screwed up. I started writing this weeks ago as a Letter to Undecided Women Voters—especially those still scarred by the profound misogyny battering Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries. But headlines kept breaking and I kept adding stuff until the piece threatened to become the Black Hole that ate the Electoral College. By now, my short tolerance for willful ignorance is as spent as Wall Street while socialism-Republican-style tries to nationalize it. But it’s hard to know where to start. So many dolts and liars, so little time. So much to cover. This essay needs lists.
Since feminists are reluctant to criticize a woman (as much from a healthy fear of headlines screaming, “Catfight!” as from sisterly sanctity), I offer:
Ten Nice Things to Say About Sarah Palin:
1. She’s a lifelong NRA member and crack rifle-woman, but hasn’t yet shot a single person in the face.
2. She’s so unafraid of power that a majority-Republican legislative committee is investigating her abuse of it.
3. She’s broad-minded, willing to have evolution taught alongside creationism.
4. She gives “the personal is political” new meaning: Axing the public-safety commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law (Trooper-gate); firing “foes” suspected of “disloyalty” (Library-gate).
5. She knows how to delegate, involving “First Dude” husband Todd in more governmental decisions than any male politician’s spouse has dared since Hillary tried to give us healthcare in 1993. (First Dude’s defying a subpoena from those meanies mentioned up in #2.)
6. She has executive experience: As mayor of Wasilla, then-constituency 5,000 souls, she presided over a population almost as vast as that of some urban high-schools.
7. She’s an existentialist: Bridge-to-Nowhere-gate, Highway-to-Nowhere-gate. She never “focused much on Iraq”—after all, “the war is part of God’s plan”—and she dismisses McCain’s reluctance to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as being like “Eastern politicians” about environment. (Check out Wasilla’s dead-Lake-Lucille-gate.)
8. She brings home the earmarked bacon—plus moose, caribou, wolf, and any other animal stumbling haplessly across her rifle-sight as she leans out of the ‘copter on another heli-hunt. But! Does she rely solely on godless government for her $500 million U.S.-subsidized natural-gas pipeline? No! Last June, at the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church, she declared, “God's will has to be done to get that gas line built!”
9. She displays refreshing curiosity, as when she asked, “What is it exactly the VP does?” (Don’t scoff: Are you smarter than a 5th grader?)
10. She’s multi-talented—studied journalism, tried sportscasting, can slickly scan a teleprompter (unlike her running-mate). She’s a jock (Sports-Complex-gate.) She was a beauty queen (as all of McCain’s wives were; how ‘bout that?) She’s patriotic—well, except for attending that secessionist Alaska Independent Party conference during the seven years when First Dude was a party member pulling down DWI convictions on the side. Best of all, she’s a born-again feminist, a “feminist for life.” Which I guess makes me a feminist for death.
Oh,the irony of it all.
We’ve lurched through a surreal looking-glass. Cheney advisor Mary Matalin smirks “we feminists have fought thirty years for this moment.” GOP Committee Victory Chairman (sic) Carly Fiorina—who sneered, “The glass ceiling doesn't exist”—steals my words from “Goodbye To All That #2” to support McCain. Conservatives now complain about “misogynistic” coverage of continually emerging political misdeeds by Palin—who herself denounced as “whiners” those millions of us livid at media sexism and Democratic National Committee (DNC) indifference to it in their joint political gangbang of Hillary last spring. The gall is breathtaking.
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Never before have the words “sexism” and “feminism” sputtered their way out of so many hypocritical right-wing jaws, appropriated overnight by people who for—excuse me, 40 years—denounced anyone working for women’s rights, including calling us “FemiNazis.” Perversely, such outrageous annexation of our language means feminism is succeeding. These neo-cons need to claim it, to pretend they’re relevant. (Of course, the lack of respect shown by the DNC and the Left to those 18 million of us HRC voters helped facilitate the Right’s cynical appropriation.) Still, “thanks but no thanks.” The complexity and power of the global Women’s Movement is not interchangeable with Applehood and Mother Pie. You can’t have the rhetoric without the reality. Sarah Palin is to all women what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is to African American women and men. With triumphs like these, who needs setbacks?
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis says this election is “about personalities, not issues.” But feminists don’t merely follow the person—we follow the politics. We’ve always been about supporting candidates who show commitment to the rights of all women. I backed Hillary for her stand on issues, and because I felt she was best qualified of all the candidates. But Hillary’s not running now.
Nor can you just slot one (qualified) woman out and slot a different (unqualified) one in: women are not building-brick toys. Regrettably, some of my colleagues in the media seem unable to grasp this. Having faced justifiable fury for their treatment of HRC, they now tiptoe crazily around Palin for fear that to criticize her at all will be—whoops!—“sexist.” Which brings us to:
Ten Blunt-Crayon Hints for the Media
1. Do investigate Palin’s opposition to listing polar bears and other animals as endangered. Do not call her one: no chick, bird, kitten, bitch, hen, cow. Also no produce: tomato, peach, etc.
2. Do not give more credence to McCain’s “maverick” myth. (By the way, a “maverick” is not a rebel; it’s just an unbranded steer.) Do expose how the real McCain surfaces in racist, ethnic, homophobic, ageist, and sexist “humor.” Do remind us that 1998, when Chelsea Clinton was only 18, McCain asked a GOP fundraiser audience, “Why is Chelsea so ugly?" and answered himself: "Because her father is Janet Reno."
3. Do follow up GOP accusations of media sexism regarding Palin. For instance, when Rush Limbaugh—who began pushing Palin for VP pick last February—exults, “She’s got nice-looking ankles . . . [plus] Guns! Babies! Jesus! And she's a babe!” do suggest the GOP confront him.
4. When adopting a reverential tone about McCain’s stint as a tortured POW, do report that the largest single threat women in the military face is the torture of sexual assault and rape by their own male comrades and superiors—plus threats of ostracism and “friendly fire” if they report attacks. While on the military, if you report McCain minion Fiorina claiming he “was one of the first to condemn sexual misconduct at the Navy’s Tailhook Convention in 1991,” do expose the fact that McCain participated in Tailhook drunken bouts and sexual attacks on women in 1987 and 1990, while a sitting senator. (He was warned a day early that the scandal would go public, so carefully denounced it first, claiming the assaults began in 1991—a brazen lie.)
5. Do not ask if Palin can balance work and parenting, unless you ask if McCain, Obama, and Biden can. Do report quotes like this, from Cindy McCain: “When I was alone with all these babies . . . did I get angry? Sure, [I was] a single parent except on weekends.” Or this, from Michelle Obama, quoted by Barack: “‘You only think of yourself,’ she would tell me, ‘I never thought I’d have to raise a family alone.’” But do challenge Palin’s claim of relying solely on relatives for childcare, since she acknowledged (in her church speech last June) having a nanny.
6. Do not crucify Bristol Palin for being a pregnant, unwed teen. Do note the irony that her mother opposes sex ed and funding for pregnant teens. Do point out conservatives’ vile, racist, double standard on teen pregnancy (imagine if an Obama daughter were in Bristol’s situation).
7. Do not laugh away impregnator Levi Johnston’s having bragged on his (swiftly removed) Facebook page, “I’m a f***ing redneck . . . I like to hang out with the boys, shoot some s*** and f***in' chillin'." Do follow up: Just what did he mean by “shoot some s***”? Deer? “Horse”?
8. Do not present more all-pale-male panels shamelessly unfazed by pontificating on gender and race. Do be embarrassed that all three presidential debates are anchored by white men. Gwen Ifill, a two-fer—female and African American--landed the VP debate. She’s great. Two-fer’s not. Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.
9. Do not keep humoring the tiny minority of woman-hating, lesbian-and-gay “curing,” science-denouncing, religious-fanatic troglodytes in this country. Do not dignify them by “equal time” 50-50 coverage when the reality is 6 (them)-94 (the rest of us). Do not fear condescending to people who deserve not just condescension but ridicule, because they insist everyone share their certainty that our galactic quadrant of dimensional fabric in the multiverse was thrown together in six days by a vengeful authoritarian old prick with a beard; people who believe women were born to shut our mouths, spread our legs, obey men, and drop babies like litters of, uh, say, pit-bulls; people who don’t fear wars but are terrified of same-sex lovers; people who are blatantly bigoted, deliberately superstitious, and proudly ignorant. Do not facilitate the further takeover of our republic by Snopses—and if you don’t get that literary reference, look it up (try Faulkner).
10. Do expose lowest-common-denominator politics as toxic to the democratic process. Do confront accusations that any thoughtful person is “elitist.” Do remind viewers and readers that intelligence, skill, and excellence are desirable qualities in those who would be our leaders. Do remind citizens that the Founders of this Republic were highly educated individuals who prized intellect, rationality, and science, who made damned sure religion and politics were firmly separated, who chose representative government over direct democracy because they believed that leaders should not be folks “to have a beer with” but people thoroughly educated on national and global issues and deeply prepared to deal with them. Despite corporate ownership of the media, do try to act like a free press.
Anyway, here’s where we are now.
Pollsters claim “disaffected white women,” including “unregenerate” HRC supporters, will make the difference on November 4. In fact, groups like PUMA (Party Unity My Ass), though linguistically ripping off big cats and sneakers, may have tried to play a meaningful role pre-Democratic Convention, but at this point are boding to become 2008’s Naderites. (Oh wait! There still are actual Naderites out wandering the desert, sighted somewhere near Roswell.)
Heads up: if you’re disaffected and unregenerate, this part is specially for you.
I’m also unhappy that Obama endorsed Bush’s faith-based initiative (Jefferson and Madison would puke in their graves). I’m uneasy when Obama declares “I let Jesus Christ into my life”—and if that offends any Born Agains, they really shouldn’t read Robin Morgan. But remember: HRC also danced to the Christian tune. And yes, I was incensed when Obama said women shouldn’t be able to get a late-term abortion because of “just feeling blue”—crudely insensitive to what any woman feels at any stage of pregnancy termination. When he chuckles admiringly about his wife and daughters being “beautiful, graceful, [and] highly opinionated,” he shows a lack of understanding that that compliment strikes a feminist as offensively patronizing the same way “articulate” was offensively patronizing about him. Why should it be a matter of note that black people can be articulate or female people can have opinions?
Bottom line: Obama’s book title: Dreams from My Father. McCain’s book title: Faith of My Fathers. Patriarchy? You think?
Neither one gets it. BUT. One doesn’t not get it much more than the other. So:
Ten Reasons You CANNOT Support McCain-Palin
1. Yourself. Do not cut off your womb to spite the Democrats. (Also do not sit this election out or play write-in-vote games. And tempting though it may seem, do not blow a vote for the Green Party.)
2. Iraq. McCain’s been a hawk since evolution made raptors.
3. The Economy. For years McCain chaired the Senate Banking Committee that brought us the current financial meltdown. He opposed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have made it easier for women and other workers to pursue pay-discrimination claims. (Come to think of it, why the focus solely on equal pay for equal work? Whatever happened to equal pay for comparable worth?)
4. The Supreme Court. McCain vows to stack the court with “clones of Alito and Roberts.” There goes . . . well, everything.
5. Choice. McCain has lodged 125 anti-choice votes. He boasts he’ll overturn Roe v. Wade. And as for the claim that if Roe is overturned it will “merely” throw reproductive rights back to the states, understand that McCain supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion outright, nationwide.
6. Realism. If you’re a young feminist, do not get disillusioned by Obama’s drift to the middle—depressing but standard for winning. Do consider running for office—politics is not a spectator sport. And if you still can’t grasp why older feminists zealously backed HRC, please read Susan Faludi‘s brilliant “Second Place Citizens” for context. It’s crucial.
7. Old Wounds. Remember that McCain’s answer to a supporter asking him about Hillary, “How do we beat the bitch?” was “Good question!” Remember that at the Sturgis motorcycle rally, McCain mortified his wife by saying she should enter the Topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest. Remember that, responding to a comment Cindy made about his thinning hair, he guffawed, “At least I don’t plaster on makeup like a trollop, you c**t.”
8. Palin. McCain’s pick of Palin demonstrates contempt for American women and insults the intelligence of anyone who supported Hillary, since Palin is her (melting) polar opposite. It denigrates qualified Republican women (Senators Snow, Collins, Dole, and Hutchinson must be suffering silent apoplexy). It’s actually abuse of Palin herself, a sacrifice tossed to the ravenous fundamentalist base, now the butt of public humiliation for her abysmal lack of qualifications.
9. Feminism—remember that? McCain-Palin politics are antithetical to every feminist policy most U.S. women support. Palin is an anti-abortion-rights, pro-“abstinence only” enemy of sex education and stem-cell research who denounced as “outrageous” the state supreme court’s decision to strike down Alaska’s parental-consent statute; who believes survivors of sexual assault and incest should be forced to bear the attackers’ fetuses to term; who let Wasilla charge survivors for rape kits and forensic exams; who cut funding for teen-pregnancy services; who stated she’d oppose abortion for her daughters even if they’d been raped; who’s against same-sex marriage (because such love is “curable”) and against gun control—but apparently all for shotgun weddings (poor Bristol’s gonna marry that dork, like it or not).
10. Settling for Greatness. Sure, we wanted to vote for the right woman. Sure, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for her. Meanwhile, in Obama we can have a chief executive who reflects our politics, and who—especially since he may have both houses of Congress behind him—just might turn out to be one hell of a great president.
Finally, for those many of us still so hurt that we came this far (and this close) only to be told yet again: Sorry, you won’t make history this time—here are:
Five Ways To Still Make History
1. Do get involved in electoral reform. Have a real effect on the Democrats by working to end the unrepresentative caucus system in some state primaries. Because caucuses are held only at certain hours (usually night-time) in a few venues, they discriminate against lots of voters—late-shift workers, parents with young kids, older voters, and people without cars in areas lacking mass transit. A caucus vote is public, thus puts unfair pressure on some voters—wives voting differently from husbands, students vulnerable to peer pressure. It’s no coincidence that Hillary lost in caucus states: many of her backers were women, working-class folks, older people. This system, that supposedly “builds the party,” disenfranchises voters. Let’s change it.
2. Do not just inveigh against sexism in the media. Growling at your TV set is fun; action is better. Target sponsors of shows that offend, organize email blizzards and boycotts of their products. Join the anti-sexist, anti-racist media campaigns of The Women’s Media Center and NOW.
3. Do let’s learn from the primaries. HRC campaigned intrepidly. But her campaign was unworthy of her—and that’s her fault. Enough with listening to Mark Penn-type advisors and “Beltway feminist” gatekeepers who told her not to give “women’s issue speeches.” Whatever her future holds, it will be interesting, and I’m proud she’s my senator. Meanwhile, do let’s take advantage of the fire her candidacy rekindled in women. Do let’s start rebuilding the Women’s Movement with more audacious activism.
4. Do let’s take responsibility for what we ourselves failed to make happen in the primaries. The Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Netroots (via the Daily Kos), and the faith-based community (via Rick Warren’s event) all sponsored debates, so candidates had to address those communities’ concerns, and just as crucially, those constituencies educated the public about their issues. Where were women? The Congressional Women’s Caucus, the National Women’s Political Caucus? An ad hoc consortium of NOW, Feminist Majority, CODE PINK, BISA, NCRW, NCNW, NWSA, WEDO, and the other initials? Why didn’t women—the majority of the population—hold a debate, make the candidates answer to us, and in the process, inform the electorate that our issues are not reducible to “the glass ceiling,” which sounds as if all we want are more CEO jobs? Our agenda is vast, including national health insurance, the HIV epidemic among young black women, legislation and funding to address disability rights, sexual abuse, domestic violence, prostitution, and sex trafficking. Our global issues range from poverty and bride burnings to child marriage and protein denial, from female infanticide to forced illiteracy, from refugee suffering and genital mutilation to environmental destruction. Women, the majority of humanity, are the first affected by world crises and the last consulted about solutions. The glass ceiling? We must never again collaborate in our own invisibility.
5. Simple: Do not throw away your chance to help elect this nation’s first African American president. Savor that. That vote makes history.
Last, a purely personal note. Obama’s favorite authors are Graham Greene and Toni Morrison. McCain’s are James Fenimore Cooper and Hemingway. For me, as a writer? Honest-to-god, that alone does it.
Besides, I like arugula. I’ve even grown some.
WOMEN'S MEDIA CENTER COMMENTARY
Goodbye To All That (#2)
by Robin Morgan
February 2, 2008
Goodbye To All That” was my (in)famous 1970 essay breaking free from a politics of accommodation especially affecting women (for an online version, see [link]).
During my decades in civil-rights, anti-war, and contemporary women’s movements, I’ve avoided writing another specific “Goodbye . . .” But not since the suffrage struggle have two communities—joint conscience-keepers of this country—been so set in competition, as the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) and Barack Obama (BO) unfurls. So.
Goodbye to the double standard . . .
—Hillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden who’s emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.
—She’s “ambitious” but he shows “fire in the belly.” (Ever had labor pains?)—When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.
—Young political Kennedys—Kathleen, Kerry, and Bobby Jr.—all endorsed Hillary. Senator Ted, age 76, endorsed Obama. If the situation were reversed, pundits would snort “See? Ted and establishment types back her, but the forward-looking generation backs him.” (Personally, I’m unimpressed with Caroline’s longing for the Return of the Fathers. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans have short memories. Me, I still recall Marilyn Monroe’s suicide, and a dead girl named Mary Jo Kopechne in Chappaquiddick.)
Goodbye to the toxic viciousness . . .
Carl Bernstein's disgust at Hillary’s “thick ankles.” Nixon-trickster Roger Stone’s new Hillary-hating 527 group, “Citizens United Not Timid” (check the capital letters). John McCain answering “How do we beat the bitch?" with “Excellent question!” Would he have dared reply similarly to “How do we beat the black bastard?” For shame.
Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged—and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.
Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan “If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!” Shame.
Goodbye to Comedy Central’s “Southpark” featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRC’s vagina. I refuse to wrench my brain down into the gutter far enough to find a race-based comparison. For shame.
Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not “Clinton hating,” not “Hillary hating.” This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison. Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrage—as citizens, voters, Americans?
Goodbye to the news-coverage target-practice . . .
The women’s movement and Media Matters wrung an apology from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for relentless misogynistic comments (www.womensmediacenter.com). But what about NBC’s Tim Russert’s continual sexist asides and his all-white-male panels pontificating on race and gender? Or CNN’s Tony Harris chuckling at “the chromosome thing” while interviewing a woman from The White House Project? And that’s not even mentioning Fox News.
Goodbye to pretending the black community is entirely male and all women are white . . .
Surprise! Women exist in all opinions, pigmentations, ethnicities, abilities, sexual preferences, and ages—not only African American and European American but Latina and Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Arab American and—hey, every group, because a group wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t given birth to it. A few non-racist countries may exist—but sexism is everywhere. No matter how many ways a woman breaks free from other discriminations, she remains a female human being in a world still so patriarchal that it’s the “norm.”
So why should all women not be as justly proud of our womanhood and the centuries, even millennia, of struggle that got us this far, as black Americans, women and men, are justly proud of their struggles?
Goodbye to a campaign where he has to pass as white (which whites—especially wealthy ones—adore), while she has to pass as male (which both men and women demanded of her, and then found unforgivable). If she were blackor he were female we wouldn’t be having such problems, and I for one would be in heaven. But at present such a candidate wouldn’t stand a chance—even if she shared Condi Rice’s Bush-defending politics.
I was celebrating the pivotal power at last focused on African American women deciding on which of two candidates to bestow their vote—until a number of Hillary-supporting black feminists told me they’re being called “race traitors.”
So goodbye to conversations about this nation’s deepest scar—slavery—which fail to acknowledge that labor- and sexual-slavery exist today in the U.S. and elsewhere on this planet, and the majority of those enslaved are women.
Women have endured sex/race/ethnic/religious hatred, rape and battery, invasion of spirit and flesh, forced pregnancy; being the majority of the poor, the illiterate, the disabled, of refugees, caregivers, the HIV/AIDS afflicted, the powerless. We have survived invisibility, ridicule, religious fundamentalisms, polygamy, teargas, forced feedings, jails, asylums, sati, purdah, female genital mutilation, witch burnings, stonings, and attempted gynocides. We have tried reason, persuasion, reassurances, and being extra-qualified, only to learn it never was about qualifications after all. We know that at this historical moment women experience the world differently from men—though not all the same as one another—and can govern differently, from Elizabeth Tudor to Michele Bachelet and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
We remember when Shirley Chisholm and Patricia Schroeder ran for this high office and barely got past the gate—they showed too much passion, raised too little cash, were joke fodder. Goodbye to all that. (And goodbye to some feminists so famished for a female president they were even willing to abandon women’s rights in backing Elizabeth Dole.)
Goodbye, goodbye to . . .
—blaming anything Bill Clinton does on Hillary (even including his womanizing like the Kennedy guys—though unlike them, he got reported on). Let’s get real. If he hadn’t campaigned strongly for her everyone would cluck over what that meant. Enough of Bill and Teddy Kennedy locking their alpha male horns while Hillary pays for it.
—an era when parts of the populace feel so disaffected by politics that a comparative lack of knowledge, experience, and skill is actually seen as attractive, when celebrity-culture mania now infects our elections so that it’s “cooler” to glow with marquee charisma than to understand the vast global complexities of power on a nuclear, wounded planet.
—the notion that it’s fun to elect a handsome, cocky president who feels he can learn on the job, goodbye to George W. Bush and the destruction brought by his inexperience, ignorance, and arrogance. Goodbye to the accusation that HRC acts “entitled” when she’s worked intensely at everything she’s done—including being a nose-to-the-grindstone, first-rate senator from my state.
Goodbye to her being exploited as a Rorschach test by women who reduce her to a blank screen on which they project their own fears, failures, fantasies.
Goodbye to the phrase “polarizing figure” to describe someone who embodies the transitions women have made in the last century and are poised to make in this one. It was the women’s movement that quipped, “We are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” She heard us, and she has.
Goodbye to some women letting history pass by while wringing their hands, because Hillary isn’t as “likeable” as they’ve been warned they must be, or because she didn’t leave him, couldn’t “control” him, kept her family together and raised a smart, sane daughter. (Think of the blame if Chelsea had ever acted in the alcoholic, neurotic manner of the Bush twins!) Goodbye to some women pouting because she didn’t bake cookies or she did, sniping because she learned the rules and then bent or broke them. Grow the hell up. She is not running for Ms.-perfect-pure-queen-icon of the feminist movement. She’s running to be president of the United States.
Goodbye to the shocking American ignorance of our own and other countries’ history. Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir rose through party ranks and war, positioning themselves as proto-male leaders. Almost all other female heads of government so far have been related to men of power—granddaughters, daughters, sisters, wives, widows: Gandhi, Bandaranike, Bhutto, Aquino, Chamorro, Wazed, Macapagal-Arroyo, Johnson Sirleaf, Bachelet, Kirchner, and more. Even in our “land of opportunity,” it’s mostly the first pathway “in” permitted to women: Representatives Doris Matsui and Mary Bono and Sala Burton; Senator Jean Carnahan . . . far too many to list here.
Goodbye to a misrepresented generational divide . . .
Goodbye to the so-called spontaneous “Obama Girl” flaunting her bikini-clad ass online—then confessing Oh yeah it wasn’t her idea after all, some guys got her to do it and dictated the clothes, which she said “made me feel like a dork.”
Goodbye to some young women eager to win male approval by showing they’re not feminists (at least not the kind who actually threaten thestatus quo), who can’t identify with a woman candidate because she is unafraid of eeueweeeu yucky power, who fear their boyfriends might look at them funny if they say something good about her. Goodbye to women of any age again feeling unworthy, sulking “what if she’s not electable?” or “maybe it’s post-feminism and whoooosh we’re already free.” Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, “I could have saved thousands—if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.”
I’d rather say a joyful Hello to all the glorious young women who do identifywith Hillary, and all the brave, smart men—of all ethnicities and any age—who get that it’s in their self-interest, too. She’s better qualified. (D’uh.) She’s a high-profile candidate with an enormous grasp of foreign- and domestic-policy nuance, dedication to detail, ability to absorb staggering insult and personal pain while retaining dignity, resolve, even humor, and keep on keeping on. (Also, yes, dammit, let’s hear it for her connections and funding and party-building background, too. Obama was awfully glad about those when she raised dough and campaigned for him to get to the Senate in the first place.)
I’d rather look forward to what a good president he might make in eight years, when his vision and spirit are seasoned by practical know-how—and he’ll be all of 54. Meanwhile, goodbye to turning him into a shining knight when actually he’s an astute, smooth pol with speechwriters who’ve worked with the Kennedys’ own speechwriter-courtier Ted Sorenson. If it’s only about ringing rhetoric, let speechwriters run. But isn’t it about getting the policies we want enacted?
And goodbye to the ageism . . .
How dare anyone unilaterally decide when to turn the page on history, papering over real inequities and suffering constituencies in the promise of a feel-good campaign? How dare anyone claim to unify while dividing, or think that to rouse U.S. youth from torpor it’s useful to triage the single largest demographic in this country’s history: the boomer generation—the majority of which is female?
Old woman are the one group that doesn’t grow more conservative with age—and we are the generation of radicals who said “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Goodbye to going gently into any goodnight any man prescribes for us. We are the women who changed the reality of the United States. And though we never went away, brace yourselves: we’re back!
We are the women who brought this country equal credit, better pay, affirmative action, the concept of a family-focused workplace; the women who established rape-crisis centers and battery shelters, marital-rape and date-rape laws; the women who defended lesbian custody rights, who fought for prison reform, founded the peace and environmental movements; who insisted that medical research include female anatomy; who inspired men to become more nurturing parents; who created women’s studies and Title IX so we all could cheer the WNBA stars and Mia Hamm. We are the women who reclaimed sexuality from violent pornography, who put childcare on the national agenda, who transformed demographics, artistic expression, language itself. We are the women who forged a worldwide movement. We are the proud successors of women who, though it took more than 50 years, won us the vote.
We are the women who now comprise the majority of U.S. voters.
Hillary said she found her own voice in New Hampshire. There’s not a woman alive who, if she’s honest, doesn’t recognize what she means. Then HRC got drowned out by campaign experts, Bill, and media’s obsession with everything Bill.
So listen to her voice:
“For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.
“It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls. It is a violation of human rights when woman and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution. It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small. It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war. It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide along women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes. It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.
“Women’s rights are human rights. Among those rights are the right to speak freely—and the right to be heard.”
That was Hillary Rodham Clinton defying the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Government at the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing (look here for the full, stunning speech).
And this voice, age 21, in “Commencement Remarks of Hillary D. Rodham, President of Wellesley College Government Association, Class of 1969.”
“We are, all of us, exploring a world none of us understands. . . . searching for a more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating mode of living. . . . [for the] integrity, the courage to be whole, living in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. . . . Fear is always with us, but we just don't have time for it.”
She ended with the commitment “to practice, with all the skill of our being: the art of making possible.”
And for decades, she’s been learning how.
So goodbye to Hillary’s second-guessing herself. The real question is deeper than her re-finding her voice. Can we women find ours? Can we do this for ourselves?
“Our President, Ourselves!”
Time is short and the contest tightening. We need to rise in furious energy—as we did when Anita Hill was so vilely treated in the U.S. Senate, as we did when Rosie Jiminez was butchered by an illegal abortion, as we did and do for women globally who are condemned for trying to break through. We need to win, this time. Goodbye to supporting HRC tepidly, with ambivalent caveats and apologetic smiles. Time to volunteer, make phone calls, send emails, donate money, argue, rally, march, shout, vote.
Me? I support Hillary Rodham because she’s the best qualified of all candidates running in both parties. I support her because her progressive politics are as strong as her proven ability to withstand what will be a massive right-wing assault in the general election. I support her because she knows how to get us out of Iraq. I support her because she’s refreshingly thoughtful, and I’m bloodied from eight years of a jolly “uniter” with ejaculatory politics. I needn’t agree with her on every point. I agree with the 97 percent of her positions that are identical with Obama’s—and the few where hers are both more practical and to the left of his (like health care). I support her because she’s already smashed the first-lady stereotype and made history as a fine senator, because I believe she will continue to make history not only as the first US woman president, but as a great US president.
As for the “woman thing”?
Me, I’m voting for Hillary not because she’s a woman—but because I am.